Are You Ready For Fright Night?

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Photos in this post are from last Halloween.  They were taken with my D80 and 18-55mm, with flash.

It is that time of the year again!  Halloween is just a few days away and if you have kids, you will want to take pictures of them in their costumes & trick-or-treating.  But, are you ready to take those night photos?

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I am not a pro and will never proclaim to be.  However, I can give some good advice on how you can get good night shots of your kids on Halloween.

Flash:

You are going to need one or you will have to use the one built into your camera.  I would not try to take photos without one, you will be disappointed and you will get frustrated trying to get the right settings.

You may be able to pull off a few shots if you have a really fast lens and if you have a camera that performs well at very high ISO.  But you are most likely going to have more “throw aways” than “keepers”.  Of course, if your street is really well lite up, you just may be able to get away with not using a flash.

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Lenses:

I would say you really only need one, but is should be one that is relatively fast.  Secondly, I would suggest you don’t use one with a long focal range.  If you have a 18-55mm or a 35mm or a 50mm, I would suggest using one of these lenses.  You don’t really want to be standing to far back from your subject.  If you are to far back and are using a built-in flash, your flash will just get eaten up by the night, especially if there is nothing behind the subject.

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ISO:

Well, this all depends on your camera and how well your sensor and lens can handle low light conditions.  If you have an Auto ISO feature, I would set it at Auto1600.  This means that your camera will determine what ISO to use, but will never go above 1600.  This saves a lot of guess work.

1600??  Some people may be worried about “noise” in their photos.  As I stated above, it does depend on what camera you will be using.  Many mid-level cameras today will be able to handle ISO 1600 quite well.  The only way you will really be able to notice it, is if you pixel peep.  If you are a pixel peeper, please return your camera back to the store for a full refund.

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Shutter speed:

Again, this depends on your settings and what Mode you will be using – I would use Aperture Priority.  Your shutter speed is also determined by what ISO you have your camera set to, as well as the aperture you have your lens set to.  I would say that the minimum shutter speed that you would want to use, is 1/30s.  Though, I am sure your camera will give you more if you are using flash, a high ISO and a wide aperture.

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AF Illuminator:

Turn it on, it will only help.

Spare batteries:

Bring them.  As simple as that.

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Test:

If you don’t want any surprises, I would suggest you go out on a test run before the 31st.  If for some reason you can not go outside, you can always do the test indoors with a bit of light.

What you are really wanting to achieve here, is to get a sense of how your camera will perform in very low light.

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Last night, I took both my X10 and XP1 into my dark kitchen.  Now, the XP1 is wonderful in low light conditions and high ISO.  But, since it does not have a built in flash & I don’t have a flash for it yet, I was not getting acceptable shutter speeds.  I could have gone all the way down to f1.4, but the DOF is so thin.

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Therefore, I opted for the X10 as my camera for the 31st.  I set the auto ISO to 1600, the aperture to f8 (gives a nice DOF) and I popped up the Intelligent flash.  I went around my dark kitchen and started to snap photos.

The AF illuminator lite up the scene, the AF locked onto the scene, took the photo.  Results: ISO was around the 800 mark and shutter speed was around 1/60s – went down to 1/40s when I adjusted the aperture.  All in all, great results.  I had no problem locking onto the subject, had a good shutter speed, ISO was below what was set and the flash did it’s job.

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A few words about Fuji’s intelligent flash.  The flash on the X10 does not need to be thought about, that is why it is called an “intelligent” flash.  It does all the thinking for you.  It “measures” the scene in front of the camera and with that information, it will give you the exact amount of flash that you need.  Nothing less, nothing more.

Obviously, testing how my camera functions in a dark kitchen is a lot different from doing it outside.  However, it does give me some baselines to work with. With the light from the moon and other light sources, my settings will be just fine.

Please keep in mind that what I have written above, is from my own personal experiences.  Furthermore, keep in mind that I am using Fuji X cameras, specifically an X10 for this post.  Your camera may perform very differently from mine, that is why you should test you camera in low light situations before you go out on the 31st.

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In sum:

-Test your camera before

-Use auto ISO.

-Use your flash.

-Keep your focal length short.

-Try to maintain a good shutter speed.

-Use your AF illuminator.

-Bring spare batteries.

Other then that, go out and have fun and take some good photos.  Remember, keep you and your kids safe by staying visible to motorists.

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